Friday, February 22, 2008

The value of so many zeros.....


India discovered zero.

Some ancestor of mine, n generations ago, where n is improbably huge, went ecstatic over it in a scholarly way.

Carved as they are into one corner of my DNA, too many of these zeros , generally cause a sense of unease and anxiety.

They still boggle the mind. Mine, that is.

I have always looked, mouth agape, at people who talk about crores and millions , with a level of familiarity that I have with , say, tomatoes and potatoes.

Inflationary life has brought me into a certain level of familiarity with up to 5 zeros, but anything beyond that tends to cloud my already operational macular degeneration as I trudge towards completing the sixth life decade.

So it is with a sense of some frustration as well as derisive wonder that I read all this news about various cricketers across the world being "bought' for millions and crores by the Indian Premier League, otherwise considered the moneybags of the BCCI.

What does a million dollars mean to someone as ordinary as me ?

Maybe its the funding from the worlds leading IT company for free computers for India's municipal schools; it could be a much awaited funding for creating much needed transport infrastructure for the disabled; or it could be a very sorely needed finance for running the Learning Disabilities Clinic in Mumbai's premier public hospital, which actually would have had to shut down, till an industrial house temporarily pumped in some green adrenaline.

But NO.

To some industrial moneybags, who crib continuously about corporate taxes, while placing orders for their 5th personal aeroplane, being able to say "
Dhoni, bought for a million dollars" , is an avidly anticipated "high". Having cricketers of "iconic status" advising them, kind of makes it fine in the eyes of the potential game audience.

Buying and selling dedicated cricketers, between sips of celebratory champaign, in plush 5 start environs, has further increased the myopic ignorance of these people who never read newspapers that report on the unavailability of badminton shuttles aborting the Indian team practice, or a 25,000 Rs shortfall stopping a carom champion girl from attending an International meet.

And lets not talk about hockey teams having to bed down on airport floors, and runners running with thighs scalded by boiling tea that spilled when too many people were accomodated in a place meant for half as many. And what do you say about someone who spends millions of Rs and minutes organising a swimsuit calendar with folks emphasizing everything else but swimming, while swimmers' parents are asked to fork out airfare for meets outside India, with a vague promise of reimbursement , and never mind that they represent the country...

That cricketing sportsmen, who came up through small towns, (still valuing their ordinary coaches who had extraordinary dedication), will now shift and play in towns with completely arbitrary culture, as "products" with a sell-by condition, is probably a confirmation that globalization is alive, well, and raring to take over .

While a nation came to a cricketing standstill as a result of Australian cricketing types abusing and falsely implicating one of our own, the main Australian culprit today is probably having the last laugh after hearing that he is the second highest "priced" player, over whom our moneybags fought.

Abuse ? Turning the other cheek ?

India's richness is its diversity. It is what makes things interesting. This mixing of cricketers from various regions, like the the Agricultural Produce Market Committee bidding for tomatoes from 3 different places, , ultimately reduces the price of tomatoes, but takes the zing out of allowing the consumers to enjoy the different tastes.

It's all happening in the name of money and speed. These guys are not playing test matches. They play the T20. Fast games, quick results, quicker money. The players, hitherto having cribbed about a crowded playing schedule leading to inadequate rest and injuries, have even signed away their wellbeing in medical clauses as part of this league set up. Play for 44 days for us every year. If you don't perform we will trade you like Harshad Mehta stocks.

What was wrong with playing as a country team ? Why negate the sense of national unity the team had
naturally developed ? There are reports of some parents of players even cautioning their children about keeping their mind on the game and not on the money.

But it's difficult to take a position in a society which supports doing everything bigger, faster, and applauds its heroes who are paid by oil companies for appearing in their commercials ,saying a single word, "speed" , and then revving up those cylinders to race across the country, and the overall costs be damned.

One of India's greatest sons, way back in 1940's led the populace innovatively towards independence; no dictators, no flinging around of money, it was more "we" than "me"; and fifty years down the line, we enjoy the fruits and preen ,as folks call us the world's most successful and biggest democracy, while our neighbors still struggle to spell it correctly.

The effects of our money centric attitudes will be clear 50 years from now, may be even sooner.

The Great Man said "There is more to life than increasing its speed..."

He also said something else . "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever"......

In this great hurry to reach somewhere very fast, we, typically, are half le

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